You’re applying for a job as a personal assistant, and you received an invitation to an interview. Congratulations!
Your interview is an opportunity for hiring managers to see what you’re like and how you’ll put the skills you listed on your resume to work for the company. To give yourself the best shot at making a good impression, take some time to prepare for the meeting.
To do this, you can re-familiarize yourself with your resume, note which of your qualifications you want to highlight throughout the interview, and make a list of questions you want to ask your interviewer. The most effective thing you can do, though, is to practice answering sample interview questions.
While you can’t (and shouldn’t) memorize an answer for every question you might be asked, you can get a good handle on what you want to communicate in your answers.
In this article, you’ll find a list of common interview questions and sample answers specific to a position as a personal assistant. You can use these to help you prepare your responses.
What are the top skills that you believe good personal assistants should have?
I believe a good personal assistant has strong time management skills, is flexible, and is conscientious. With their ever-changing responsibilities, good personal assistants need to be able to manage their to-do lists without missing deadlines or letting tasks slip through the cracks.
They also often handle sensitive information, so they need to be trustworthy and conscientious.
How would you organize your day to be sure you don’t miss any tasks or deadlines?
An organized day starts with an organized week, so each Friday I like to prioritize my next week’s tasks by importance and deadline. I use a paper planner so that I can color-code lists, make notes, and see each day and week at a glance.
Next, I would set smaller checkpoints or deadlines to keep myself on track throughout the week and make my daily to-do lists according to that schedule, leaving plenty of space for anything unexpected that may come up.
How do you manage multiple urgent tasks?
When I find I have multiple urgent tasks, I break them down into smaller chunks and then set deadlines for them. I then block out time in my schedule to work on each of those smaller tasks.
To make this possible, though, I get into the habit of prioritizing my to-do lists each day. This ensures that I don’t get behind on important things so that I have some leeway to take on unexpected urgent tasks.
What experience do you have taking minutes for meetings?
As an administrative assistant, I took minutes for our office’s weekly staff meetings. I prepared the conference room, printed agendas, and set them out before the meeting. During the meeting, I took notes on who was present, the main discussion topics and points, any decisions or action steps that resulted from the meeting, and any due dates.
After the meeting, I organized and typed up my notes for my manager to look over. Once he approved them, I sent them out to the whole office.
Tell me about a time you’ve had to be flexible at work.
One day I was ready to come in and have a quiet day where I could catch up on tasks that had been pushed to the back burner. As soon as I got in, though, I found out that my boss was out sick and couldn’t give a tour to an important prospective client. I was the only other person in the office qualified to give tours, so the job fell to me.
I was a little stressed about it when I first found out about it, so I took a few minutes to prepare my materials for the tour and to collect myself. I asked one of my colleagues to cover another task for me while I was gone, and I gave the tour without a hitch and still had time to knock out a few things from my to-do list.
How would you respond if a frustrated client is trying to reach your boss, but your boss isn’t available?
As the gatekeeper to my boss, it’s my job to represent him well, and I can do that by providing excellent customer service.
In this case, I would apologize to the client and show them that I understood their frustration. I would then either try to find someone else who could help the client or set a meeting for my boss and the client.
I would explain everything I was doing to the client very politely and professionally, and then once we had landed on a solution, I would let my boss know what had happened and that the client was frustrated so that he could try to make it up to them. If possible, I would also offer some kind of compensation to the client.
What would you do if your manager asked you to handle a situation in a way that you didn’t agree with?
If the decision was simply not my style but wouldn’t do any real harm, I’d just keep my disagreement to myself and do it my manager’s way.
If I thought the method would be damaging to the company or our department, however, I would politely ask for a private meeting about it. There, I’d calmly and respectfully share my concerns so that we could work to come to a different solution.
How would you describe your computer skills?
I’m very comfortable with the basics like Microsoft Office, and I’m taking a class in HTML so that I can update and fix website issues more easily. I’ve also taught myself several new programs throughout the past few years, and I’m the one in my current office that people come to with computer-related questions.
I can’t always answer those questions off the top of my head, but I typically know where to look to find the answer.
Describe a time you had to handle a lot of pressure at work.
When I was working at my university library, there was one day when I was unexpectedly the only employee working the writing help desk. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, but this was the Friday before finals week, and it was only my third time working that particular desk. Plus, I walked up to start my shift to see that a line was already forming.
I knew I had to help students efficiently and accurately since this was the one time a semester that many of them needed my services. I quickly took a deep breath, made sure my workstation was in order and began to work through their requests.
It was an exhausting day, but thankfully I was able to successfully keep up and help everyone. Later, my supervisor complimented me on my good work, and one student even came back to thank me for my help.
How would you handle a demanding boss?
If my boss was being unreasonably demanding, I would work to understand why she was being demanding. If it’s because she was overwhelmed, I’d work with her to find out what I could do to help take some responsibilities off of her plate.
If it was just her personality, I would politely look for opportunities to talk about new communication strategies to help us work together more effectively.
I’ve had quite a bit of practice with this with my sister who is one of my best friends but can also be demanding. I’ve learned how to communicate with her about this, and our relationship has improved significantly over the past few years.
How would you handle being a personal assistant to more than one executive at a time?
When I was in college, I worked as an administrative assistant to two different professors at the same time, so I have some experience with this.
To manage it, I made sure I had good organizational methods in place and that I was in constant communication with each of them. Every day I would knock out my high-priority jobs first so that I had room for their changing needs.
If I had to switch gears and deal with something urgent for one of them, I’d let the other one know so that they knew that I’d get back to their request as soon as I could. While working for both of them was a challenge sometimes, I enjoyed the busyness and the variety of tasks I got to perform.
What steps do you take to further your professional skills?
I’m always looking for ways to strengthen my skill set, so I make it a goal to complete three professional conferences, classes, or pieces of training each year. For example, I just finished a business writing workshop at my local community college, and I attend a professional development luncheon at our organization once a month.
Why do you want to work for this organization?
When I first moved to town two months ago, I quickly saw how this organization is a pillar in the community. Not only do you employ a large number of people, but you also give back to the businesses, families, and individuals around you. I’d love to be a part of that.
Why do you want to be my personal assistant?
While looking at the job description for this role, I noticed that it comes with both administrative and event planning responsibilities. I’ve been able to plan events a few times as a part of my jobs in the past, and I’ve realized that that is something I love to do.
This passion, combined with my five years’ experience as a personal assistant, seemed like a perfect match for this position.